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Culinary Background

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    Posted: 08 July 2010 at 22:05
 
 
Although Canadian cuisine differs slightly from region to region, it is still a reflection of its early beginnings.
 
The cuisine of the western provinces is heavily influenced by Italian, British, German, Ukrainian, Polish, and Scandinavian heritage. Noteworthy is the cuisine of the Doukhobors, Russian-descended vegetarians. This particular bit of information intrigued me. With some basic research I learned the following from Wiki.

“Their pacifist beliefs and desire to avoid government interference in their life led to an exodus of the majority of the group from the Russian Empire to Canada at the close of the 19th century.

Assimilated to a varying extent into the Canadian mainstream, the modern descendants of the first Canadian Doukhobors continue to live in south-eastern British Columbia, southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Today, the estimated population of Doukhobors in North America is between 15,000 to 20,000 in Canada and about 5,000 in the United States.”

Fascinating group of people with so much more unrelated to this post. If you are interested in learning about this group of immigrants, their history, customs modern way of life, click here. 

From them, a lot of Western Canadian cuisine is vegetarian in its origin.
 
Canadian Chinese cuisine is widespread across the country, with variation from place to place. The Chinese buffet, although found in the U.S. and other parts of Canada, had its origins in early Gastown, Vancouver, in the mid-late 1800’s and came out of the practice of the many Scandinavians' working in the woods and mills around the shantytown getting the Chinese cook to put out a steam table on a sideboard, so they could "load up" and leave room on the dining table -presumably for "drink".  Ginger “beef” is a popular Chinese food said to have originated in Western Canada, with its abundance of moose and elk.

The Chinese influence is a mainstay - more so a foundation- in Western Canadian culinary history. Chinese workers were employed in the 1800s by Chinese labour contractors during the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway linking Montreal with Vancouver. Many of those workers who stayed once the railway was completed resorted to opening small inexpensive restaurants or working as cooks in mining and logging camps, canneries, and in the houses of the upper classes in cities and towns. They prepared variations on traditional Cantonese food that were well-received by local patrons and they were prized as cooks in wealthier households. This occurred despite the fact that few if any of them were trained chefs. In most small towns in Western Canada, the Chinese “café” was the first restaurant established, and often the only one.

Neither the Germans, Scandinavians, Poles nor Italians bought the food of their own ethnic group, since they could prepare those themselves, whereas Chinese food was a novelty. Furthermore, the Chinese community was not heavily involved in agriculture, so this presented an opportunity for an alternative source of income. Consequently the Chinese community specialized in the restaurant business, and was able to undercut and out-compete later rivals. Even today in many towns and hamlets across the prairie provinces and in northern British Columbia, there can usually be found a Chinese café regardless of the community's size, serving "Canadian and Chinese cuisine" or, once more common, "Chinese and Western Food". In Glendon, Alberta, for example, next to a roadside model of the world's largest perogy (a staple of Ukrainian cuisine), sits the Perogy Café, which serves "Ukrainian and Chinese Perogies" (meaning Pot Stickers).

Apparently Gastown, Vancouver was a popular spawning place for big appetites and big servings, and also home of the invention of the Lumberjack’s Breakfast. The Lumberjack's Breakfast, aka Logger's Breakfast, aka "The Lumby": a gargantuan breakfast of three-plus eggs; rations of ham, bacon and sausages; plus several large pancakes. It was invented by hotelier J. Houston around the 1870’s, at his Granville Hotel on Water Street in old pre-railway Gastown, in response to requests from his clientele for a better "feed" at the start of a long, hard day of work.

So there we have a brushstroke of Western Canadian cuisine. It was fun poking around and doing the cursory research; anyone interested in digging deeper?

Feel free to add to the region's recipes and the FOTW Forum…that’s why we’re here and always interested in details on what and why we eat what we do.

With that, I’ll leave a Western Canadian moose-meat recipe I discovered. Most of us can't get moose-meat, but for those of you who can, maybe you all can give it a try and let us know how it comes out~

Moose Stew

From: http://www.recipes4us.co.uk/Canadian%20Recipes.htm

Ingredients
900g/2lb Moose or Elk Meat, cut into 2.5cm/1-inch cubes
50g/2oz Lard or Oil
Water or Stock
Salt and Black Pepper
1 Large Onion, chopped
2 Carrots, thickly sliced
2 Parsnips, peeled and cubed
1 small Turnip, peeled and cubed
4 Medium Potatoes, cut into 2.5cm/1-in chunks

Instructions

1. Heat the fat or oil in a large saucepan, add the meat and brown on all sides.

2. Add enough water or stock to cover the meat by 2.5cm/1-inch, season with salt and pepper, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour.

3. Add the onion and continue to cook for a further 1 hour.

4. Add the remaining ingredients, mix well and cook for a further 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender adding a little more water or stock if necessary.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 July 2010 at 08:55
excellent post!
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